Thursday, March 28, 2013

Oyster Wars

I learned a lot about oysters this weekend.  I learned that the kind they grow in Tomales Bay are called miyagi, or Pacific oysters. I learned that they are considered a creamy oyster with a minerally taste. I learned that the little buggers are hard to shuck and even harder to grill.

I also re-learned that they are delicious.

We bought two dozen large, fresh oysters as we left Point Reyes. The salesperson put them into a bucket and covered them with ice for the drive home, and they kept very well. All were firmly closed at cooking time.

I had grilled oysters in the past, just placing them on the grates of the barbecue and waiting a few minutes until the top shell pops open. That was my plan this time, too, then dipping them in sauces to see which we preferred.

I made a butter sauce with scallions, poured some Sartain's sauce into a separate bowl for dipping, got out the Cholula for the hot sauce experience, and poured little bowls of oyster juice. Some combination of those was sure to be a hit.

I won't go in to all the little hiccups that came between me and that plan but the goat rope included hot grates that fell to the bottom of the barbecue onto the ashes so the fire never quite got hot enough, and some of the shellfish that simply refused to pop. I agonized over the poor oysters who suffered a long, slow death. It's bad enough to kill them, but do they need to be tortured first?  When I arrive at the Pearly Gates, St. Peter is going to remind me of those oysters, I'm sure.

We gave up on the barbecue and retreated indoors.

The second batch went into a hot (450 degree) oven.  They were supposed to take 8-10 minutes according to my hasty internet research, but ours took at least twice that. Granted, they were very large, plump oysters and they were freezing cold when they went into the oven, but, still, 20 minutes is a long time when you had planned to be eating 45 minutes ago.

Never mind.  The oven batch came out and I got the knack of shucking them (finally, after breaking the tip off my favorite knife - grrr!), and we sat down to eat.  

After the last bivalve went down the Little Red Lane, My Beloved and I sat back and looked at each other in amazement. What a rigamarole for what should have been a simple meal of oysters and salad!  

Still, we had learned a thing or two in our Oyster Wars - roasted oysters are just as good as barbecued oysters.  In fact, we rather preferred them overall, as they were just the essence of oyster with no confounding smokiness. When you have oysters this fresh, there is no need to get fancy with them.

My last oyster was the best - slipped out of its shell, dipped through the oyster juice to rinse, then a quick trip through the scallion butter before lightly skimming over the Cholula. That way, no sand lingered in the folds, the juice intensified the flavor, the butter added a rich, herbal note, and the Cholula (just a tad) gave extra flavor and a tiny singe of heat as the oyster went across my tongue. 

Now that we've got it down to a science, we need to go back to west Marin to get some more oysters.


Blogger Greg said...

Sounds like fun with food! You brought the coast home. Is no wonder people come from all over to enjoy it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013  
Blogger cookiecrumb said...

Poor you! What an ordeal. I hope you try again, because it's good eating, fresh off the grill. Oven's OK, too, I admit.

Never heard of rinsing an oyster. I'm just not familiar with sand in the folds (maybe shell flakes from rough shucking?). I know about swishing littlenecks in clam juice, though, so why not?

Thursday, March 28, 2013  
Blogger Toons said...

If I might offer a suggestion. I find that medium oysters and a VERY HOT FIRE are the key to a wonderful nosh. Just some garlic butter and a drizzle of Sauce left on the fire to caramelize a bit, after shucking of course.

Thursday, March 28, 2013  
Blogger katiez said...

I've done those meals.... not with oysters, but the same basic trials... Glad it worked out in the end. We leave fairly near where Arachon oysters are farmed.

Thursday, March 28, 2013  
Blogger Zoomie said...

Greg, we tend to forget because we live here that this is a major destination for people from all over the world. Lucky us!

Cookiecrumb, I'll try again once I get over my snit. It really was sand in the shells but a quick wash in the juice did the trick. These were large oysters and next time I'm going to try mediums.

Toons, you've got the ticket - medium oysters+hot fire. Next time!

Katiez, wow, make a pilgrimage to Arachon soon, before the season for oysters is over. They aren't good in the summer months in France, as they are reproducing. We are lucky here that our (imported from Japan) species can't reproduce in our cold waters, so we can enjoy them year 'round.

Friday, March 29, 2013  

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